Wed 23

Why I Blog (Part 2)

Max Max's supercool web traffic graph I first put up this web site in early 1999, and oh, what a beauty it was. It had a picture of the Syrup cover, and little blue bubbles, and funny hand icons next to the links, and you could only get to it via “,” with the two Xs. I wish I’d kept a copy somewhere, but, alas, all that’s left is this carcass courtesy of the Internet Archive project.

I was very proud of my site, because in 1999 not everyone had one. It often received as many as 8 visitors a day, spiraling up to a heady 13 visits per day in July when Syrup was released. Thirteen! Just imagine, if 13 people visited me in person each day, I’d be exhausted. Clearly this web site thing was a good idea.

I also started getting e-mails from people who liked my book—not many e-mails, but a few—which was very exciting and made me feel famous in a way that the watching my first novel sink without a trace hadn’t. I decided that I would get more serious about the web for my second novel, Jennifer Government. In March 2002 I redesigned the site. In September I added pages for Jennifer Government and my bio, and got to work on an online game called NationStates (which in late 2002 looked like this).

Thanks to NationStates and the US publication of Jennifer Government, my web traffic took off: in January 2003 received almost 50,000 visitors. But over the next year, it steadily dropped. If a new edition of Jennifer Government came out somewhere I would see a little blip, but clearly people weren’t visiting my site so much. And why should they? I didn’t post to it. It was just the same old site, week after week.

I started to worry that by the time my next book came out, nobody would remember who I was. It could be Syrup all over again: a couple of weeks on the “New Releases” shelves, then gone before anybody realized it was there. Then I would start getting e-mails from my publisher saying things like “not as well as we hoped” and I would have to crawl back to Hewlett-Packard for a real job.

I’d discovered weblogs via Wil Wheaton and thought they were a pretty cool idea. I wasn’t sure how exciting my blog would be, since my day generally goes (1) Wake up (2) Type (3) Sleep, but on the other hand I did have a lot of obnoxious opinions and wasn’t afraid to share them. Surely that was enough.

Apparently the first rule of blogging is… wow, have you ever Googled for “the first rule of blogging”? Seriously, there’s like a hundred different first rules. So I guess the real first rule is: “Everybody’s got an opinion.” Or maybe: “People post all kinds of crap on blogs and nobody checks anything so you can’t trust a damn thing they say.” But the one I had in mind when I started this paragraph was: “You must blog every day.” This sounded like a lot of work, though, so I decided I would just post whenever I thought I had something worth saying. I would create a semi-blog.

In March 2004 I rewrote the site into the sleek, attractive, standards-compliant form you see before you, and started posting to it. At first I floundered around, not really sure what to write about, but then I found my groove and discovered Newlyweds and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and I was away.

I think I get three things out of blogging. First, I get to stay in touch with people who enjoy my writing, and tell them when I have a new novel out that they must immediately purchase because my cocaine habit doesn’t pay for itself, you know. (Since I started blogging, site traffic has steadily risen and is now back to where it was when Jennifer Government was first published. Look, I even made a graph.) This is a two-way thing; via e-mail and comments, I also get to hear back from people, which is just about the best thing ever. Writing is a solitary business, and it’s continually thrilling to hear that a novel I once printed out and mailed in a box to my publisher has become a small part of someone else’s life. Without that, publishing books would feel very odd—like having a child move out of home and never hearing from him again.

Second, it’s good writing practice. The more you write, the better you get at it, and when I’m working on a novel it’s a nice break to write something different. Third, it’s like a diary: I end up with a permanent record of what was important at this time in my life. I can look back on it in ten years time, or show it to my kids. Imagine their sweet little voices: “lol omg dad u r so 1337”.


This is where site members post comments. If you're not a member, you can join here. There are all kinds of benefits, including moral superiority!

Jjuulliiaann (#1111)

Location: New York
Quote: "Religion is the Opium of the People --Karl Marx"
Posted: 7005 days ago

Well, awesome post, but I think that there are more than 100 first rules of blogging. According to google, there are about 959,000, and that's only in English.

Cantrall (#26)

Location: New Orleans
Quote: "Anagrams with my name: Chancellor thirst rap, Anarchist perch troll, Ranch pro at hillcrest, Ill rorschach pattern, Cornstarch hitler pal"
Posted: 7005 days ago

C'mon, there arn't any rules about blogging. I also sure hope Company ratchets you up even higher than Jennifer Government did!

Scott (#354)

Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Quote: "Max Barry tastes like awesome"
Posted: 7005 days ago

Old English to English to 1337 speak. Does anyone else see this natural progression? I shudder to think of the future.

Mary-Kate and Ashley.. that was a classic. I remember copy and pasting that to my own blog... (one that no one reads or really has a reason to.) In a few years, maybe you should create a classic Max page? All the best of Max, none the facts. No idea what that means, but it's catchy.

Dead (#724)

Location: Ipswich, Australia
Quote: "5'4" and bulletproof."
Posted: 7005 days ago

I wrote a rebuttal to a big list of blogging 'rules' my girlfriend linked me to once. It included swearing, was barely applicable to real, not lame, blogging, and is linked to by roughly ten people. lol

I blog because I find it's a release. I can vent/be sappy/outline plans for world domination and noone can tell me not to. Because A) It's my blog and B) I pay for my own hosting, dammit! Only occasionally does something of relevance slip into my packed 'blog about day' schedule though, lol.

shabooty (#637)

Location: D.C./V.A/M.D.
Quote: "I will shake your foundation. I will shake the f**cking rafters. Nobody'll be the same -Danny Bonaduce ....& go visit my blog @:"
Posted: 7005 days ago

I wonder how Max's "site membership" has grown also...
either way,

Justin Holt (#147)

Location: Rochester, NY
Quote: ""
Posted: 7005 days ago

Once again, your blog makes me smile.

I'm not really into the whole blog thing, but when I open up my email and see Max Barry and then whatever the subject is, I rush to read it. Good, good stuff.

On a side note, I just picked up the new Stand By Me deluxe edition release and while watching the making of feature everytime Wil Wheaton spoke all I could think of was you.

Now I fear that one of my two all time favorite movies will always revert back now to Max Barry's teenage disgust for Wil Wheaton.

Melissa (#888)

Location: WI
Quote: "When you can't run anymore, you crawl, and when you can't do that, you find someone to carry you."
Posted: 7004 days ago

I always look foward to getting emails from you. I'm glad that you have this blog, no other author that I know of does this, and it shows that you like to keep in touch with your readers. Plus you have a great sence of humor and I love it. Looking forward to your next big hit!

Narain (#824)

Location: Los Angeles, right between civilization and a desert
Quote: "NI!"
Posted: 7004 days ago

I always thought this blog was just another attempt at making sure we stayed here until you could seduce us into buying another book, now I know. Try all the devious marketing tactics on me you want, free online games, little stick figures, I won't give in!

Oh fine, I will buy your next book, and the next one, and probably the one after that, but that's only because I really like them.

Peter N.Bernath (#1041)

Location: Stockholm - Sweden
Quote: "Errr... Is that a tree growing out of your head? - Fallout 2"
Posted: 7004 days ago

OMG!!! Look at that all time low between the publishing of Syrup, and the launching of NationStates. It must have been a sad month to see everyone dissapear like that! Hehe... Just kiddin'!

I just got a hold of Syrup about a week ago, it took a while to get it from the States (I live in Sweden, so no publishing here, I'm afraid), and I finished it during two nights at my job. I mean, man! It was even better than JG! I didn't think that was possible!

Thank you Max(x) ;) for enriching my life!

Nathan Shayefar (#1025)

Location: Berkeley
Quote: "Gladia"
Posted: 7004 days ago

I more or less agree with Narain, but that much is expected. :) Blogs are also useful for reflection (at least in my case), because it helps me work things out in my head and reach conclusions and make decisions, etc.

The "A new record!" bit on the graph makes me think of Super Smash Brothers. Sorry, I couldn't help it.

Machine Man subscriber Danni (#357)

Location: England
Quote: "Eagerly awaiting the European Tour."
Posted: 7004 days ago

I read your blog because it's interesting, often very witty, and gives me something to do. I look forward to my next installment of Max's blog and to be able to add to my Max Barry folder in my emails :)

I just hope Syrup comes out here in the UK soon :P

Pete Clamiston Nessi (#927)

Location: Chicago
Quote: "04dana14na"
Posted: 7004 days ago

0|-| |\/|4><, '/0|_|'123 50 |]1234|\/|'/!!!

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 7004 days ago

Max Barry has inspired me to start my own blog, and since I don't have a website, I will start writing on the comments of max barry's blogs.
It will pobably be really boring and have a lot of grammatical errors because I am not a professional writer.


I got up and ate some pop-tarts today. They were really great. I then proceeded to get in the Maroon Walrus(96' town and country) and drive to school. I had a nice day because I knew that it was the last day before spring break; Therefore, I wouldn't have to do anything in any of my classes. Eric made me really mad. He has been spreading rumors about me.
I think Jennifer likes me. I might ask her to prom, but I am kind of scared and nervous. We went to the Taking Back Sunday concert together and had a good time.
Anyways that is all of the crap I can make up for today. I will blog whenever Max blogs again.

Blackavar (#1178)

Location: Florida, USA (Sweaty. -.-;)
Quote: "Foreplay isn't in the bullfrogs like it used to be."
Posted: 7004 days ago

Yes I want to leave a comment, thanks.

Kay, if my kids said that to me, I think they'd be forced to stay up late picking the pieces of my BRAINS out of the carpet. =| They wouldn't be saying THAT trash again in a hurry.

See, but I'm lame. I write on a LiveJournal(WE KNOW DRAMA)tm thingy, so I get a maximum influx of about two visits per day. It's all about who you are and who you know these days, innit?

Marc (#1168)

Location: SF
Posted: 7004 days ago

“lol omg dad u r so 1337”

Does that mean Max wants his kids to be computer geeks like he is?

Oenone (#151)

Location: Konstanz, Germany
Quote: "I don't want to lie to you, but I will."
Posted: 7004 days ago

at least max doesn’t appear stark raving mad in his journal. my journal has to be anonymous for this reason. to the casual observer, i appear to be a raging lunatic. xD politics do that ;P

max’s blog is a hoot to read, i especially enjoyed the ‘oh he’s so dreamy’ wil wheaton post and the philosophies of an OS “aka resistance is futile/welcome to the linux collective” post, which is why i keep coming back :)

Chris (#816)

Location: Quebec, Canada
Posted: 7004 days ago

"I'm glad that you have this blog, no other author that I know of does this"

The authors I know of that do are Neil Gaiman, Holly Black and Poppy Z. Brite.

Nora Jean Stone (#1170)

Location: San Francisco, CA, USA
Quote: "Do Wa Ditty, Life in the CITY, where the Women are Strong and the Men are Pretty... anon"
Posted: 7003 days ago

I just received your first newsletter, what a concept! You can tell I'm new here. Blogs are dangerous things for those folks who want jobs with corporations. There's folks being fired over stuff they wrote in their blogs. There's law suits over whether journalistic blogs can be afforded the same protections as print journalists. So I applaud your blog and your willingness to get feed back from your fans. A semi-blog is still ballsy. Opening yourself up to feed back from strangers around the world is also ballsy. Loved the graph. I check my "hits and eyeballs" stats all the time and start to sweat when the hits are lower than usual. That prompts me to do another tutorial. "hit sluts R us", eh? xoxo NJ

Rod McBride (#688)

Location: Gardner, KS
Quote: ""
Posted: 7003 days ago

I'm impressed. I haven't even fixed the txpos in my own web site, mainly because between work and family, I have too much on my plate already that takes away from my own novel (in its fourth rewrite).

Which leads to a question. If I scoured your blog, I'd probably find the answer, but how much rewriting does Max Barry do?

I've seen interviews with Chuck Palahniuk, Amy Hempel, Joyce Carol Oates, Craig Clevenger, etc., and it seems like pretty much every writer I enjoy rewrites dozens of times before they even show a piece to an agent or editor.

For my own part, I've 'started' to write novels since I was 12, and being three years past 2<sup>5</sup>. that makes 23 years of starting, typically getting disgusted/disenchanted in a matter of 15,000 words and chucking it.

My current novel is one I've refused to abandon, though it's probably not a fundamentally better idea than any other I've had. But I toughed it out, finished the rough draft and have been through two rewrites of the thing. This over a span of going on four years. If I take 27 more rewrites at this pace, I'll be a pensioner before I'm querying agents.

I've put myself on deadline, as it were, to get the thing coherent enough to shop it to agents by this summer, the goal being to have it represented by the end of 2005 (my New Year's resolution).

And yes, I do participate in a couple of writer's workshops, for a little over a year now. They've been a big help, largely from the process of critiquing other people's work. I'll by typing away, 'Don't do_________' while at the same time thinking, wait, I do that too! And it's awful!

Merrick (#1177)

Location: Germany (US Army)
Posted: 7002 days ago

I wish I had something witty to say about how I enjoy your openness to feedback, your response to every email, and your quality of writing, alas, but I am a simple little American soldier boy forced to live in the land of Germans (That's Germany, by the way) with my personal problem with pants and socks, whom I hate. I have little time for sight-seeing in my short time over here, not only because Germans look down on people who don't like to wear pants and socks, but because of my endless pursuit to come across a website that sucks me into the computer (through the screen, preferably) and lets me live my existence in cyberspace having only 1's to eat and 0's to crap out, and letting me know what's going on everywhere all the time.

What is all this about, you ask? Well, Max, your website is where I go everynow and then to take a break from looking for that infamous digital gateway to oblivion... well, that is, after I read the latest Penny-Arcade comic.

Machine Man subscriber Mapuche (#1184)

Location: Darwin, Australia
Quote: "Inconceivable!"
Posted: 7001 days ago

How come Max's blog on The first rule of blogging only comes up as hit number three on google? Actually, I laughed when I saw it on the first page of hits... What is that? Some form of cylclic linking? A link feedback loop?

Teri (#1189)

Location: Chicago
Quote: "Perception is 9/10ths of Reality."
Posted: 6999 days ago

Wil Wheaton is an ass.

Tom Hurst (#1186)

Location: Marketing
Quote: "Now with blue bits."
Posted: 6998 days ago

So that's what happened to Wil Wheaton! I always thought they should have made a Star Trek meets Degrassi Junior High spin-off. Wes at Star Fleet Academy - Star Trek Cadets. Then Wil got fat and, quite clearly from his blog, mundane and now it all seems like an impossible dream.

Sorry Max, back to you. The graph is amazing.

Tom Hurst (#1186)

Location: Marketing
Quote: "Now with blue bits."
Posted: 6998 days ago

No really. Amazing.

Myrth (#22)

Location: London, UK
Quote: "A quote must have a beginning, a middle and an"
Posted: 6998 days ago

NationStates gave you quite a boost there. How much (as a percentage) of traffic was referred from NationStates?

Another Lower Class Brat (#1172)

Location: New York, U.S.A
Quote: "I'd rather people hate me for who I am, then love me for who I'm not ."
Posted: 6998 days ago

The graph is mentaly stimulating...Before I found your blog a couple of years ago, I personally hated blogs, and the people that did them, but you proved that all "bloggers" aren't just depression angered 13 year olds, trying to bitch about puberity to all their friends... and I appluad you....P.S. chop chop on gettin Company into my little paws, I NEED MORE BARRY GENIOUS TO READ!

The Voice of Reason (#1103)

Location: Earth
Posted: 6998 days ago

That graph looks like it was made by an eighth grade student.

At the very least I have to applaud Max's honesty. The subtext of this post being that the only reason he blogs, really, is to generate traffic to his site. Isn't that noble? Don't you want to read a book by someone who is more concerned with marketing than content? It's no surprise that you found Max's website on google at #3 under "rules of blogging", that was the intention of this post. Just like everything on this site. "Jennifer Government: NationStates". A game that's not really about the book it’s named after at all. It goes on and on.

That's why publishers will keep printing his books, even if they need to be rewritten 3 times. Because he knows how to market. The writing is superfluous product.

Tom Hurst (#1186)

Location: Marketing
Quote: "Now with blue bits."
Posted: 6998 days ago

Back off voice of cynicism. Have you ever considered the sub-sub text as irony.

Work with me on this Max.

Morzaria (#463)

Location: Bangalore, India, well, most of the time atleast...
Quote: "We are gonna run run run to the cities of the future.."
Posted: 6998 days ago

I honestly don’t think I would have heard about Max before stumbling across nationstates. A few months after getting my nation I went out and bought the books. And I wasn’t disappointed. Syrup was just lovely.

*And looks like the site is up to #2 now.

Machine Man subscriber Mapuche (#1184)

Location: Darwin, Australia
Quote: "Inconceivable!"
Posted: 6996 days ago

OK, nearly had a fit when i saw my comment on the cyclic link re "the first rule of blogging" now comes up as a sub heading of Max's google link (at #2) which makes my comment #2.5 (not really a full #3).

Funny funny funny. See what I get for showing other people this site?

Finally got my JG and am reading. Sad that I cannot get Syrup in Australia, may have to resort to et al for a copy.

Notice how cunningly I arrange for another sub-entry.

Morri (#1538)

Location: Melbourne, Australia.
Posted: 6851 days ago

I have about two minutes to whip out an excellent, eloquent comment.

*Two minutes of rabid typing and just as rapid deletion later*

Oh well.

What the hell was Syrup doing on that op-shop bookshelf, anyway? It's excellent. [Or at least I'll assume so, since I haven't finished reading it as yet. But since it's pretty damned good so far, to ruin it now would entail a fuck up of monstrous proportions.]
In truth Jennifer Government and Syrup are not my normal type of reading material. I'm more likely to pick out seventy cents worth of historical fiction/fantasy or a battered Guy Gavriel Kay. I guess that as played Nationstates a year or so ago that barcoded green eye somehow managed to entrench itself in a brain otherwise full of black holes and questionable content.

Anyway, seeing as how that two minutes is now actually spent, I had better leave it at that.
Oh, and, I'm Victorian, too! [In the hopes of being noticed among this horde of adoring commenters.]


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